VANCOUVER -- When we met Denver Mace at his Koji Fine Foods facility in Chilliwack we didn’t quite know what to expect. He seemed like an unlikely candidate to be brewing up shoyu, a Japanese-style soy sauce that isn’t readily found in Canada.

“You go to Japan and you taste the real soy sauce and you’re like, 'What have I been missing all my life?' You know?” Mace said.

Inspired by what he tasted, he wanted to share it with consumers here and with me. To prove his point, he lined up 10 different soy sauces for me to taste and to my surprise, there was a distinct difference. In fact, I chose two of the top products of shoyu he had brought back from Japan.

Mace says there isn’t enough of the quality Japanese shoyu to export, which is why he’s hoping to cash in on his on brewed soy sauce.

It starts with koji. It’s a type of fungus or mold spore used to ferment soybeans to give them a distinct flavour.

He showed us the room where it all begins, the koji muro. The temperature inside was warm, initially kept warm with controlled to humidity to begin the fermentation process.

“The medium that it’s growing on is the soybeans and then broken cracked roasted wheat,” he explained.

It’s made with Canadian organic soybeans too, which, ironically, are exported to Japan to make shoyu.

As it develops it produces its own heat, and when it’s ready, he adds it to a barrel of brine he created with Vancouver Island sea salt. Eventually, the fermentation process begins to break down the beans – combined with the salt and the flavour produced from the red wine barrels, it the sauce takes on its own character. 

“We’re trying to make a unique Canadian terroir,” he said.

But it takes time. The shoyu he’s brewing up won’t be ready for another year, which explains why the product is in short supply.

However, he was able to share his homemade miso balls which he’s been selling at local markets. They’re also made from koji and tasted delicious.

He’s also been making producing koji salt, which has also been a popular seller. You substitute it in liquid-type recipes like soups, sauces and salad dressings, using twice as much koji as the amount of salt required. The koji provides a special salty flavour with less than 25 per cent of the sodium.

Will his home-brewed soy sauce be as popular?